Credit card for car rental

credit card for car rental

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When we analyze the best travel credit cards here, we tend to focus on the most obvious benefits they offer, including the best credit card sign-up bonuses or earning rates for different kinds of merchants. However, the less obvious benefits of these cards can save you a lot of time and money when things go wrong, including trip delays or cancellations, luggage delays, or if you’re traveling in an accident or need an emergency evacuation.

Another often overlooked benefit of many credit cards is car rental insurance, which is a great help if you’re involved in an accident or if your rental car is stolen or damaged. Today, I want to highlight the best credit cards that offer major rental car insurance for peace of mind the next time you hit the road.

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Credit Card and Rental Car Insurance

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
  • Ink Business Cash Credit Card
  • Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
  • United Explorer Card
  • American business card
  • United Club Unlimited Card
  • Business Cash from Capital One
  • Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Before we get into some of the details, let’s dive into some of the best rewards credit cards and best travel credit cards that offer major car rental coverage—meaning you don’t have to file a claim with your insurance first. Note that this is not an exhaustive list, so you may find other cards that offer major rental car coverage. Be sure to check your credit card’s terms and conditions to find full details on the auto-rental policy.

Chasing a credit card with car rental insurance

Armed with these details, what are the major car rentals offered by popular travel rewards credit cards today? Below is a list at the time of writing, noting important exceptions or details where applicable:

Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve

Choosing a Chase credit card provides major rental car insurance when you use your credit card, or in some cases your Ultimate Rewards points, to pay for the entire rental. The Sapphire Card – which is Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred – provides major car rental insurance. Consecutive 31-day rentals paid using any type of credit card are inclusive of damages, including physical damage and/or theft of the rental vehicle, effective damage charges as assessed by the rental company, and reasonable and customary towing charges associated with insured losses.

The Sapphire Reserve offers major rental car insurance coverage up to $75,000 when traveling within the U.S. and overseas. As long as you are a cardholder, you can enjoy upgrades and discounts through popular rental car programs such as National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar.

As one of the best premium travel rewards credit cards on the market, you’ll enjoy other perks like a $300 annual travel credit, free airport lounges through the Priority Pass selection program, and more. While its annual fee is $550, it currently offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points if you buy $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. 

If you’re intimidated by the high annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also offers major rental car insurance for just $95 a year. While it doesn’t offer as many travel perks as Reserve, you still get a basic rental car for up to the cash value of the rental car.

First Choice offers an excellent sign-up bonus (100,000 bonus points on purchases after $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of your account being open.) For tips on choosing between the two, be sure to check out our in-depth Compare two chase sapphire cards.

business credit card

Chase Ink Business Cards – Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, Ink Business Cash Credit Card, Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card – Offers prime coverage for common vehicle types. The coverage provides reimbursement up to the vehicle’s actual cash value for charges related to physical damage and/or theft of the rental vehicle, valid loss-of-use charges assessed by the rental company, and reasonable and customary towing charges related to a covered loss.

However, please note that when you rent your home primarily for business purposes, you will only be covered by your primary insurance. You can only get secondary insurance if you are renting in your country of residence for personal reasons.

The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. With this card, you can earn 3x points for every $1 you spend on travel, transportation, internet/cable/phone, and ads purchased on social media sites and search engines (total per account anniversary year Purchases up to $150,000), and you earn 1x points for every $1 you spend on anything else. The card has an annual fee of $95 and no foreign transaction fees. 

The Ink Business Cash Card now gives you $750 in cashback if you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. You’ll earn 5% cashback (up to $25,000 in total purchases per account anniversary) on office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone service. Plus, you’ll get 2% cashback at gas stations and restaurants (capped at $25,000 per account anniversary), and 1% cashback on all other purchases.

If you have other eligible Chase cards (such as Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred ), you can convert any Rewards Ultimate Rewards points earned. There is no annual fee for Ink Cash, but a 3% fee on all overseas transactions. 

The Ink Business Unlimited Card currently gives you $750 in cash after spending $7,500 in the first three months of account openness. Earning this card is simple: 1.5% cashback on all purchases. As with Ink Business Cash, you can convert these earnings into Ultimate Rewards points if you hold a card that earns Ultimate Rewards. There is also a 3% handling fee for external transactions, but no annual fee. 

Select a United Airlines co-branded credit card

United’s Cobranded credit cards through Chase – the American Explorer Card, the United Club Unlimited Card, and the American Business Card – offer primary coverage with policy terms similar to those above. As long as you pay for your rental car with a United credit card and decline the company’s insurance when you pick it up, you’ll get the actual cash value of the vehicle when it was originally manufactured.

The current sign-up bonus United Explorer card lets you earn up to 70,000 miles. First, you can earn 60,000 miles on purchases of $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after spending a total of $6,000 in the first six months.

You’ll also get priority storage, your first checked bag is free on dollar flights, and two United Club one-passes per year as well as claiming the Global Entry or TSA Prevention application fee (up to $100 every four years). The card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, but it does have a $95 annual fee, which is your first year. See our full card review for more details.

The Los Angeles United Club. (Photo by Zach Honig/Points Guy)

The United Club Unlimited Card is Manchester United’s top credit card. It costs a hefty $525 a year, but also comes with perks like United Club membership, and two free checked bags for you and a traveling partner. As far as other rental car benefits go, you’ll enjoy free Hertz President’s Circle Elite status. Club Infinite’s sign-up bonus lets you earn up to 75,000 bonus miles on purchases of $3,000 within the first three months of account opening.

In the end, the US business card is best for business owners flying United. Its annual fee is $99. Cardholders can earn up to $ 100 in United Travel Credit, twice a year, a one-time United Pass, and more. Currently, you’ll earn up to 150,000 bonus miles: 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, spend a total of $20,000 in the first six months of account opening and earn an additional 75,000 bonus miles.

Capital One Credit Card with Car Rental Insurance

When you buy an eligible car with a credit card, Capital One has several business cards that can cover you with major car rental insurance, and you’ll be covered for damage due to collision or theft. Capital One Spark Miles for Business and Capital One Business Cash provide prime rental insurance when you rent a car for business purposes. Both cards are Visa Signature business cards that provide coverage up to the actual cash value of the car. Benefits are only available for Visa Signature Card-approved accounts. Terms apply.

The Business Cash of Capital One is $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, $95. Cardholders earn a $500 cash bonus after spending $4,500 within the first three months of account opening. Earn unlimited 2% cash on all purchases and redeem them anytime, no minimums. You can add employee cards for free and they will get the same car rental benefits. 

New cardholders Capital One Spark Miles for Business earn a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus on purchases of $4,500 within the first three months of account opening, equal to $500 in travel. Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase. The card also has a $95 annual fee, which was waived for the first year. 

American Express Credit Card with Major Car Rental Insurance

No American Express credit card offers primary car rental insurance, although most will offer secondary coverage. But most American Express credit cards offer an optional Premium Car Rental Protection policy that can be added to rentals using the card for a small fee.

Screenshot courtesy of American Express.

Primary and Secondary Coverage

Before I discuss credit cards that offer primary coverage, it’s important to note that many travel rewards credit cards offer some type of collision damage waiver coverage (CDW) when you rent a car and decline or waive the rental company’s collision loss/damage coverage. The coverage provided is different, so it is important to understand the difference in coverage.

The distinction between primary and secondary insurance is important.

Credit cards usually offer primary and secondary coverage. The latter of the two is more common but has some important drawbacks. The most important downside is the secondary coverage after your auto insurance. So if you’re in a rental car with a card that offers secondary coverage, you’ll still need to file a claim with your own insurance company. Prime coverage, on the other hand, will apply before your auto insurance.

Both types of coverage usually have a posted maximum, so make sure the posted maximum matches or exceeds the total value of your rental car. Generally, you can reimburse the cost of repairing the rental car or the actual cash value of the rental car, whichever is less. However, for secondary coverage, you will usually only repay the amount not covered by any other insurance policy.

It’s also worth pointing out that most secondary policies on credit cards automatically become primary coverage in two common scenarios. First, if you rent a car outside the U.S. and your auto insurance policy doesn’t cover your coverage in that country, the auto damage coverage on the auto damage insurance card becomes primary. Second, if you don’t own a car (and therefore auto insurance), most of the secondary coverage offered by a credit card will also be your primary coverage.

extra details

Of course, anything involving insurance is not simple, so there are a few other important details to keep in mind when using or relying on these benefits:

  • Liability insurance is not included. While the credit card’s auto damage insurance terms may cover damage to your rental car, they do not apply to damage you cause to other cars and personal property, nor to you, your passengers, or pedestrians involved in an accident s damage. However, your auto insurance policy may be in effect here unless you do not have personal auto insurance.
  • They do not cover all types of cars. These policies will apply if you stick to general types of car rentals such as small, medium, and full size. However, most policies do not cover special models such as large vans, pickups, vintage cars, and motorcycles.
  • They have a limit on the number of days. Many readers may stick to the rental period during the rental period, but if you need a multi-month car rental, your credit card coverage usually won’t apply.
  • Not every country can buy it. While the exact list of excluded countries varies by credit card and issuer, the most common exceptions I’ve seen are Australia, Italy, and New Zealand.

You may be excluded from coverage due to your rental location (Cuba) or rental type (Antique). (Photo by Xavi Talleda Photo Collection/Getty Images)

You must read your card policy carefully to understand where coverage does not apply. A phone call to the customer service number on the back of the card will give you more information and will be able to confirm that the model and country of your rental car are included. You also need to realize that if you are involved in an accident that damages another vehicle, affects personal property, or injures another driver or passenger, you may still have to pay a substantial amount.

Bottom line

When many of us consider the top travel rewards credit cards, especially when they come with generous sign-up bonuses, the focus is on how many points we can earn and then redeem. However, other benefits can also come in handy when traveling, and the main car rental coverage can be a lifeguard when you get into an accident.

That said, it’s worth reviewing the specifics of your credit card policy to know exactly which coverages include (and don’t). When you pay for your rental car with a rental card that offers primary insurance, don’t assume that you are insured against all possible accidents, as there may be many exceptions and exclusions. Be aware that credit cards never provide liability coverage. However, each of the cards above is a great option if you want more peace of mind the next time you rent a car.

By Master James

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